June 17, 2014
The Al Andalus Brigade had sent nine ‘fighters’ from Spain and Morocco to be integrated into the terrorist factions in Iraq and Syria. Specifically, had connections with groups from seven other countries. The group, one of the leading suppliers of terrorist organization the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), had managed to form its own structure and to maintain connections with groups in France, Belgium, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey and Syria, as reported by the Ministry of Interior.
The group had significantly increased their activities in recent days, so the researchers considered a serious threat to national security.
June 9, 2014
On Monday, June 9, French imams gathered alongside members of the Belgian Association Against Anti-Semitism in front of the Jewish Museum in Brussels. The ceremony was held in order to commemorate those killed in the May 24 shooting in which Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche shot four people, three of whom were killed. The gathering included a prayer during which leaders of both the Muslim and Jewish communities joined hands before a moment of silence, followed by a candle lighting ceremony to honor the victims.
Hassen Chalghoumi, the “imam of Drancy,” was present at the ceremony. Chalghoumi is known for his fierce opposition to radical Islam and its violence, his denunciation of pro-Palestinian demonstrations, and his close ties with France’s Jewish community. In his speech he asserted that “The Muslim majority must end its silence and state that we don’t have anything to do with this type of individual. I also urge parents to engage in dialogue with young people. If I am here, it is to demonstrate that the Muslim community supports the bereaved families. Because we are all victims. One cannot associate Islam with this mentally ill individual. He himself chose this path.” In an effort to prevent the influence of imams trained in countries outside of Europe, Chalghoumi emphasized the need for a “European Islam.”
Writer Marek Halter of the Jewish community also spoke. “It is important to reconcile religions and to remember that those who kill are not part of the majority, otherwise we all would have been killed,” said Halter. The initiative of French imams has touched the Jewish community in Brussels, especially the museum’s president Philippe Blondin: “It’s…a magnificent gesture of openness. I welcome them with great emotion.”
Following the shooting the European Union pledged to combat the “jihadist threat.” It has prepared a series of measures to identify young Europeans who have left to fight in Syria in order to prevent them from committing violent acts when they return to Europe.
January 9, 2014
A Belgian appeal court has found three men from Amsterdam, of Moroccan origin, guilty of membership in a terrorist organization. They were said to have collected money and recruited fighters for Chechnya, though charges of conspiring to launch a terrorist attack in Belgium were dropped.
The men deny any involvement in terrorism. One is a former youth worker in Amsterdam West and was a well respected community figure. The men were arrested in 2010 and deported to Belgium in 2011, where they were among 14 suspects involved in the appeal trial. The lower court had found the men not guilty.
Dutch News: http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2014/01/belgian_appeal_court_jails_ams.php
November 8, 2013
Following press coverage about Dutch Muslims traveling to Syria to join armed struggle, television programme EenVandaag reports on the fate of those who return to the Netherlands. The Dutch Muslim fighters who have to date returned from Syria have not been arrested and prosecuted but have been given a job or course and accommodation.
An estimated 20 men have returned from Syria and have been taken up in ‘deradicalization’ courses on return to the Netherlands. The program involves finding the men training and jobs, and arranging homes for them if necessary.
The Netherlands is thus diverging from Belgium, where returning fighters are immediately arrested and prosecuted.
NIS News– http://www.nisnews.nl/returning-jihadists-not-arrested-but-helped.html
Egalite, sans guillements (Equality without quotation marks), a social collective, has decided to make an appeal to Muslim show owners to offer cheaper aliments to socioeconomically weak Muslims during Ramadan. The month of Ramadan is traditionally coined by high expenditures for festive iftar meals following the breaking of the day-long fast after sunset. A Muslim family in Belgium spends in average 60 to 70 Euro for one iftar meal. A significant amount of Belgian Muslims are, however, unable to afford such expensive meals during Ramadan.
Egalite, sans guillements argues that Ramadan is the month of sharing and conviviality, thus shop owners should in this tradition enable all Muslims to participate in the iftar celebrations. Due to a sharp rise in earnings during Ramadan, in average three times more halal products are sold during the month, shop owners should be able to still make profits whilst making concessions to help fiscally restraint Muslim families.
According to the The Observatory of Religions and Secularism’s (Orela) 2012 report, Islam continues to be discussed in specific and reductive ways in Belgium’s media. Events that are in any way related to Islam or Muslims are reported in the media in ways that “serve as a starting point for an ongoing debate on Muslim integration in Belgian society”. Any debate on Islam in the country’s media continues to include a discussion about the “compatibility of this cult with secularism “. According to Orela, Islam becomes in Belgium media a political but also sociological and economic issue, which serves to alienate Islam and Muslim communities from the country’s mainstream.
Around 5000 of Belgium’s prison population, 45% of the overall number of inmates in the country, are of Muslim faith. This has, as previously reported, caused a number of issues in regards to prison dietary rules, female guard presence, prayer rooms. The national umbrella organization of the Belgium Muslims (Executif des Musulmans de Belgique) has called upon the state to provide facilities to practice and manage the faith in prisons in order to protect it from being taken over by radical sections.
Brussels City Hall fired a recent Belgium convert to Islam for having refused to shake the hand of his female supervisor. When being interrogated during an inquiry on the case, the accused stated ‘to be forbidden to touch women’ according to his religion. The man was fired on the grounds of contradicting the notion of neutrality and civility at workplace.
The management board of the Louvain Central prison in Louvain decided to open the first Islamic prayer room within a prison in Belgium. The decision mirrors the growing demand of incarcerated Muslims for prayer space. The mosque should be able to house 100 devotees. The prison board announced to not have spent any cent for the mosque, instead, the money was collected by the Muslim prisoners to furnish the room themselves.
A recent article published by the French daily, Le Monde, interviewed the families of four Belgian Muslims who have left Europe to join the Syrian revolutionaries in their fight to overthrow the current Syrian regime under Dictator Bashir Al-Assad. The article is released in the wake of a nationwide soul searching in regards to the wave of young Belgian Muslims, numbered to be around 80 to 300, who have joined the forces of the revolutionaries. These events have, however, not been isolated, but came into the spotlight all over Europe in the recent weeks and months.
In its investigative journalistic piece, the newspaper attempts to uncover the reasons for their leaving and what their departure means for Belgium as a multicultural country as a whole and its large Muslim citizenry specifically.